the art of paper

Paper …it’s nothing but cellulose fibers moistened and pressed together, then cut into sizes we can use for things like books, or letters..or covering our walls. This simple object is used for so many things.

Before we started creating paper from cellulose, we used other things to write on. Clay..plaster…animal skin (vellum)…….papyrus. It’s odd that the word “paper” comes from papyrus…at least to me it is odd.

When I visited Egypt, I was lucky enough to see papyrus turned into paper for creating hieroglyphic prints. I was fascinated to watch a young man shred the stems of papyrus plants that he cut outside the shop, bring them in and strip them lengthwise, then soak them in liquid until they softened enough to work with.  he laid them, the strips that is, into a long pan of hardened clay..then laid a second layer across the first……..then a third layer in the same direction as the first.

He told me it made the paper more pliable and stronger when made with three layers.  “Most ancients”, he said, “used the double layer method, but those scrolls tended to crumble easily.” He set aside the fronds he was layering and pulled out a dry sheet.  “See the layers?” he asked as he held it up to the light.  You could see an almost plaid pattern within the paper as the light flowed through it. He then pulled out a feather which he sharpened on its tip with a straight blade. He dipped the feather into pots of ink and started to draw. 


I loved the finished painting enough to purchase it…and a couple of others that had already been completed in the school.

The making of papyrus was almost a lost art.  Egyptians did not use it once paper was cheaply manufactured in the late 1700’s, but began to see the benefit of creating it once tourism picked back up in the late 1800’s. The Papyrus Institute trains young artists in this ancient craft in a few back rooms at  New Pharoh’s Papyrus, in lower Cairo. If you ever are blessed enough to visit Cairo, stop by this school/business. It is so worth the trip.

3 thoughts on “the art of paper

  1. Wow, I have not ever seen anything like this. How blessed are you to be able to watch the process. Gives me a whole new appreciation for the effort and time it takes to make the paper.


  2. Very nice description of the process. I had never thought about it before. Thanks


  3. Fascinating post, Suze!


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